Legion

Rating:

MY NAME IS… 

Main Cast: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid 

Director: Scott Stewart

We arrived in Bug Tussle where Melissa, my driver, dropped me at the local Citgo gas station, the only building of any size for some miles. There I was met by Mr. Edward, the impresario of the Bug Tussle Civic Light Opera Company who thanked me profusely for coming to rescue his production of Cabaret. He explained that this was dinner theater with his audiences having Slim Jims and Chocolate Yoohoo at the attached QuickieMart and then coming to the productions which took place in the mechanics bays. (They roll the cars being worked on out back at 5 pm and Bubba Hyche, the stagehand, lowers the hydraulic lifts and brings in the set and cabaret tables and chairs before the audience arrives.) It’s not the sort of venue I’m used to but I’m all for bringing theater to new audiences and experimenting with environmental staging concepts.

I told Mr. Edward I could hardly wait to get to work as Sally Bowles, one of my favorite roles, and one I have essayed multiple times over the last fifty years (which is odd as I remain an ever youthful thirty nine years of age and have for some time). Mr. Edward looked uncomfortable and said that there must have been some sort of mistake. I was not engaged to play the role of Sally, but rather Fraulein Schneider, the elderly landlady. I was appalled. How could my public ever buy me as an aging spinster? I am always young and glamorous. I nearly pulled a major diva moment and wanted to walk off in a huff, but Melissa and her Prius were nowhere to be seen and I was uncertain how I might get back to civilization and did not feel that hitchhiking would be safe with evening coming on so I swallowed my disappointment and smiled sheepishly and asked to be allowed to freshen up before that evening’s put in rehearsal.

Free breakfast!

I was directed to the Super 8 motel on the other side of the freeway where I checked into room 103, unpacked the bare necessities, and decided that I could really do with a film to unwind prior to getting to work. Fortunately, my iPad was getting adequate cellular reception to stream Netflix and, in thumbing through their suggested films, I stumbled across a film of which I had heard numerous times, but never seen, Legion starring Paul Bettany as the Archangel Michael from 2010. I wasn’t feeling terribly angelic – demonic would be a better word so I figured that some time spent with flights of angels might be able to improve my mood somewhat.

Legion begins with Michael falling from the heavens, somewhat like Lucifer, but landing in modern day Los Angeles where he hacks off his wings, uses his omniscience to raid an illegal assault weapons cache and engages with a shoot out with a couple of hapless LA cops, one of whom appears to become possessed by a demon who warns Michael not to follow his course of action. Michael announces he is no longer taking orders from on high and heads for a wide spot in the road of the Mojave desert, home to Paradise Falls (a nod to Milton), a failing service station/diner run by Bob (Dennis Quaid) and his son Jeep (Lucas Black) and where Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) is the waitress and very pregnant. A few others turn up including the cook Percy (Charles S. Dutton), a hoity toity family on their way from LA to Arizona (John Tenney, Kate Walsh and daughter Willa Holland), and a young man (Tyrese Gibson) arguing with his baby mama by cell phone. Suddenly, all telecommunications are cut off and we figure something very bad is happening in Los Angeles. When a little old lady (Jeanette Miller) turns up trailing flies and crawling across the ceiling with superhuman strength, our intrepid diner crew knows they’re up against something strange and unusual and likely related to demons seen in quasi-religious horror films. Just then Michael turns up in an LA cop car with his big bag of AK-47s announcing ‘They’re coming’ and Legion‘s battle is on. It turns out that the ‘they’ which we have assumed is some sort of demon horde is actually Michael’s fellow angels. God is pissed off at the human race again and wants to do a clean sweep and Michael thinks it’s the wrong call and that Charlie’s unborn baby is the key to it all. This leads to battles, injuries, disappearances, reappearances, unexpected deaths, the Archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand), and an occasional surprise.

Legion‘s screenplay (by Peter Schinck and Scott Stewart who also directed) would be utterly formulaic with all of the usual tropes of band of misfits trapped in an enclosed space by a ravening horde if it weren’t for the rather nifty idea of the role reversal of angels as the bad guys rather than demons or zombies or rabid wild animals. That gives the story enough juice to keep the audience engaged and not completely tuning it out. Stewart, who as director has specialized in vaguely Catholic good vs evil epics, also is competent enough to make sure that he keeps things moving so you never have too much time to dwell upon plot holes large enough for the proverbial Sherman Tank, or the fact that most of the supporting cast are playing archetypes rather than characters. He also gives a couple of shots of masses of angels flying in formation that are both awe inspiring and chilling and somewhat reminiscent of the winged monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. I also rather enjoyed the subtle working in of the plagues of Egypt, although it does suggest that God doesn’t have much imagination if he’s using the same bag of tricks four thousand years later.

Paul Bettany is appropriately heroic in the central role with his blond hair dyed black and his musculature oiled to perfection under outfits that make sure to show off his arms. He’s a decent actor, seems to know what kind of film Legion is and doesn’t try to do too much outside the conventions. Most of the rest of the cast are journeymen character actors who aren’t asked to do a lot other than sketch in their part in a couple of short expository scenes and then do a lot of yelling, screaming, and fighting. Dennis Quaid probably comes off the best, playing slightly against type so he doesn’t always deliver a line or do what you might expect. Lucas Black, who had some promise early in his career, has aged into a charisma free juvenile lead. You really don’t care much what happens to him. Miss Palicki is better, you at least care about her and her baby but that may just be plot contrivance.

Legion is not a bad entertainment, but it isn’t terribly good either. It’s one of those films that you can have on while doing the ironing because if you tune out for a few minutes, you won’t have missed much and there’s no real danger of having missed a bit of sparkling dialogue or a brilliant and subtle acting moment.

Chinese toy warehouse. Self stitching. Frying pan to head. Gratuitous little old lady swearing. Unbuilt shopping mall. Evil ice cream truck. Exploding buboes. Clifftop good vs evil battle.

Legion is currently streaming on Netflix (March 2020).

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

photo by maitra (CC 3.0)

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